NY same-sex couples prepare for midnight weddings

By the Associated Press | July 23, 2011 | 10:29 PM EDT

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) — Same-sex couples readied Saturday for wedding bells in celebration of the state's legalization of gay marriage.

In Niagara Falls, guests gathered Saturday evening for the midnight wedding of gay-rights activists Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd. The Buffalo couple, grandmothers with 12 grandchildren between them, have been together for more than a decade and had long been fighting for the right to marry. They wanted Mayor Paul Dyster to pronounce them married one second after midnight — the moment the law would take effect and make New York the sixth and largest state to sanction gay marriage.

The couple opened their ceremony to the public and invited some of the state lawmakers whose vote last month made it possible.

Planners said there would be speeches, entertainment and a candlelight procession to Luna Island at the foot of Niagara Falls, where the vows would be exchanged.

Lambert said in the days leading up to the event that she had told Rudd "way back that when this went through we won't wait a moment longer than we have to."

The wedding was to be among a handful of midnight ceremonies planned across the state.

In Albany, the state capital, Mayor Jerry Jennings planned to begin performing marriages at 12:01 a.m. Sunday in the Common Council's chambers. A state Supreme Court judge was ready to waive the state-mandated 24-hour waiting period between the time a marriage license is issued and when a couple can be legally wed, Jennings said.

New York's vote to allow gay marriage provided fresh energy to the national drive for same-sex weddings. New York joined Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, along with Washington, D.C.

Advocates and opponents, many of whom reject same-sex marriage on religious grounds, said the New York vote, propelled by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would invigorate both sides.

Protests were planned around the state for Sunday, including at the state Capitol.